Monday, October 16, 2017

THE ORIGINS OF STRANGE FRUIT

Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

If you visited my blog yesterday or today, you know that I've re-joined the Battle of the Bands and that my first competition is between Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. The song is Strange Fruit.

The lyrics to Strange Fruit made their way into the world in 1937 in the form of a poem by "Lewis Allan," a New York City teacher who put his thoughts into an extended metaphor after seeing a photo of two African-American men who had been lynched.

The lyrics of the song are copyrighted, but they're quite easy to understand in either of the recordings posted HERE for my Battle of the Bands. (If you haven't voted yet, I hope you'll do so after listening to Simone and Holiday.)

Now, where do I go from here? Do I tell you about the man behind the pseudonym Lewis Allan, or do I write about lynching?

I guess I choose lynching, with information about the writer of the song soon to follow.

I won't include any photos of people who have been lynched. If you want to see them, they're not difficult to find. It was common for the murderers to photograph their accomplishment, and even to put the photos on post cards.

"Lynch Law" means a punishment without trial. For black men in the U.S., a lynching meant being accused of some fault or crime, being dragged from their homes or pulled off the street by a mob––often members of our oldest hate group, the Ku Klux Klan––and then hanged. Sometimes these human beings, thought of as sub-human by white supremacists, were tortured and their bodies burned. In addition to making the photos into post cards, the killers sometimes kept body parts as souvenirs of their great triumph.

How many people have been lynched? Probably upwards of 4,000, but I can't give you an exact figure. Black people aren't alone in being the targets of such hatred, although they are the largest group. Jews, immigrants, Catholics, and gay/lesbian people can be included as common targets of hatred.

To learn more about lynching, please visit HERE to see a map of the United States that shows where lynchings took place between 1835 and 1964. This site also has more information about mob violence. Another good source of information is the Southern Poverty Law Center.

It's well past lunch time, but for some reason, I have no appetite.

I guess we know why Lewis Allan felt compelled to write Strange Fruit.


Infinities of love,

Janie Junebug










23 comments:

  1. Instead of lynch mobs, now we have social media trolls and bullies. All examples of people at their worst.

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    1. And they drive some of their targets to suicide.

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  2. Sigh. Carol is right. The trolls and bullies might think their hands are clean - but I disagree.

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    1. They don't always get to hide behind the internet.

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  3. This hated, Janie...so troubling. And scary. What a dark history.

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  4. Carol Kilgore hit the nail directly on the head! Instead of lynching, people just attack online. It's sad.

    I'll have to check out your battle of the bands later.

    Love,
    Jessica

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  5. People can be unbelievably cruel and inhumane. I don't understand.

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  6. A terrible sin on the American soul.

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  7. Luckily we have songs like this to make the majority of us remember and think. Thanks for sharing the origins.

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  8. There's much that is flawed in our species. Sad.

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  9. Hi Janie - it was appalling, it is now terrible and disgraceful ... cheers Hilary

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    1. I've now found the lyrics ... and I'm sure you'll tell us more about Lewis Allen ... ghastly, absolutely ghastly ... but true to lynching.

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  10. I just found the lyrics--lynching was (& is) absolute madness!!

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  11. Still working backward. Maybe I should have started with the original post. And now I don't know if I want to hear the songs from the original post. This is depressing.

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  12. Thanks for posting about the origin of the lyrics to Strange Fruit.
    It was startling to see the map of documented lynchings across the country. What's even more startling is the realization of just how alive the white supremacy movement still is in this country. What a horrible sect of society. They're cockroaches and the current climate has them unfortunately coming out of the woodwork. They need to be squashed.
    It's very depressing.

    Will look forward to reading about Lewis Allen.

    Michele at Angels Bark

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  13. I remember seeing pictures of lynching "parties" where people brought dressed up and brought their children to these murders. Some with picnic baskets, etc. One of the most upsetting things I've ever seen. No doubt these people were all considered respectable too.

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  14. Only 4,000? I would have guessed many more were killed in this horrific fashion.

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